Talks to fast-track vaccine for athletes to save Tokyo Games

However, the chaotic scenes which forced 72 tennis players to isolate ahead of the Australian Open this week has added to pressure on organisers to reassure athletes and the Japanese community that the Games are safe.

Australian swimmer Cate Campbell said this month she believes athletes should be given access to a COVID-19 vaccine if it means the difference between the Tokyo Olympic Games proceeding or facing a disastrous cancellation.

The roll-out of the Covax scheme, led by the WHO and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is due to start next month, with 1.8 billion doses distributed to poorer countries this year.

Talks between Covax officials and the IOC have been stepped up since Tokyo organisers said at the end of November that athletes and spectators will be strongly urged to receive the vaccine.

Andy Anson, the chief executive at the British Olympic Association, said last night that a new plan to help vaccinate smaller countries was a “big issue” for the IOC, which was working “very closely” with Covax.

“I think they’re going to keep working on that so that they can make the vaccine as widely available as possible to people coming to Japan,” he said. “For us that’s important.”


Thomas Bach, president of the IOC, suggested last November that the body would cover at least some of the costs of a huge vaccination effort. Plans are now “evolving”, Anson said, to help all 206 members to get access.

Despite rising COVID-19 rates in Japan and beyond, governing bodies and Japanese ministers yesterday dismissed suggestions the Games are set to be cancelled.

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Athletes dispute Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s claims he was training for the Paralympics

Athletes have disputed Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s claims he was training for the Paralympics, calling them a ‘joke’ and saying ‘it’s like a kid saying they want to play in the NBA when they’re on their fourth-grade basketball team’. 

Cawthorn, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a 2014 car crash, previously said in social media posts he was training to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

In one February 2019 Instagram video, the congressman said the ‘world record’s going down’ in the 2020 Games as he trained on a wheelchair treadmill.

Five months later, in a July 2019 video he announced the ‘bad news’ that he would no longer ‘be able to compete in the Olympics’ after learning that wheelchair racing was worsening his existing back injury.  

In a May 2020 podcast he also said: ‘I had an opportunity for the Paralympics for track and field.’

But named Paralympic stars have cast doubt on these claims saying they had never met him, that some of the events he spoke about don’t even exist in the athletic calendar and that his claims are regarded as a ‘joke’ among the Paralympic community. 

Cawthorn’s name is also not included in the International Paralympic Committee’s list of athletes – a register of around 4,000 names that people must first be on to be able to compete.  

The North Carolina Republican has faced accusations of exaggerating his career credentials in the past, after a watchdog reported he was rejected from the Naval Academy prior to the accident that left him wheelchair bound. 

It comes amid calls for Cawthorn to be resign and face investigation by the House Office of Congressional Ethics over his part in the January 6 MAGA mob riot on the US Capitol that left five dead, after he spoke at the Trump rally moments before the violent insurrection.

Athletes have disputed Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s claims he was training for the Paralympics, calling them a ‘joke’ and saying ‘it’s like a kid saying they want to play in the NBA when they’re on their fourth-grade basketball team’

Amanda McGrory, a three-time US Paralympian wheelchair athlete who has won seven medals in track and field, told The Nation she was left puzzled asking ‘who is this guy’ when she saw an Instagram video where Cawthorn said he was aiming to beat the world record for the 100-meter dash in the Tokyo Games.

In the February 2019 post, Cawthorn shares footage of himself on a wheelchair treadmill alongside a caption reading: ‘Haunted by ambition. Ruthlessly pursuing this world record.’

Cawthorn says that he is ‘still a couple seconds too slow’ to beat the world record for the 100-meter dash of 13.76 seconds. 

‘Thirteen point seven six. To most of you it’s just a number. But for me, it’s all I can think about,’ he tells the camera. 

‘Thirteen point seven six seconds is the world record for the 100-meter dash. So in Tokyo, August 2020, that world record’s going down.’ 

McGrory said she saw the video at the time and thought it was ‘really weird’.

‘Who is this guy? Why does he think he’s going to break world records?’ she told The Nation.  

‘This is really weird. I don’t think he has any idea what he’s talking about.’  

Cawthorn, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a 2014 car crash, previously claimed on social media he was training to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. In a February 2019 post (above), Cawthorn said he was 'pursuing this world record'

Cawthorn, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a 2014 car crash, previously claimed on social media he was training to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. In a February 2019 post (above), Cawthorn said he was ‘pursuing this world record’

In the same post, Cawthorn referenced going to the ‘US Open’ in June – something McGrory said does not exist. 

McGrory likened him claiming he was training for the 2020 Olympics to ‘a kid saying they want to play in the NBA when they’re on their fourth-grade basketball team.’

She said all Paralympians must be internationally classified by the IPC to be able to compete and the names of those who have been are documented in its registry of athletes.   

‘You have to be on it to even compete internationally,’ McGrory said.

Cawthorn’s name is not on the 2020 database of registered athletes that is publicly available online.   

McGrory, who is also the archivist and collections curator for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, also said the process for qualifying for the Paralympics is long and complex.  

‘You have to be involved in a team, usually your college or a local club,’ she said.

‘And then from there, you establish times at qualifying races, and then from there you get scouted.’   

Amanda McGrory. Named Paralympic stars have cast doubt on these claims saying they had never met him and some of the events he spoke about don't exist in the athletic world

Amanda McGrory, a three-time US Paralympian wheelchair athlete, likened his claims to 'a kid saying they want to play in the NBA'

Named Paralympic stars have cast doubt on these claims saying they had never met him and some of the events he spoke about don’t exist in the athletic world. Amanda McGrory, a three-time US Paralympian wheelchair athlete (pictured), likened his claims to ‘a kid saying they want to play in the NBA’

Two-time Paralympian Brian Siemann said Cawthorn's Instagram posts about his alleged Paralympic participation are a joke among the athletic community

Two-time Paralympian Brian Siemann said Cawthorn’s Instagram posts about his alleged Paralympic participation are a joke among the athletic community

Cawthorn briefly attended Patrick Henry College which doesn’t have a disabled sports program, The Nation reported.  

Brian Siemann, a two-times US Paralympian for track and field in the London and Rio Games, told The Nation Cawthorn’s Instagram posts about his alleged Paralympic participation was a joke among the athletic community. 

‘[My teammates and I] would share whatever posts [Cawthorn] put up and be like, ‘Look at what batsh** thing he said about the Paralympics this week,” he said. 

‘The claims he was making were just so absurd, you have to find some humor in it.’ 

Siemann said he ‘never want[s] to make someone feel like it’s impossible’ but both he and McGrory said some of Cawthorn’s alleged training efforts do not even exist in the world of athletics.  

In a May 2019 post, Cawthorn used the hashtag ‘qualifiers’ but the two Paralympians said there were no qualifying meets that year.  

Meanwhile, another former elite wheelchair marathoner Robert Kozarek said the Paralympic community is so small that Cawthorn would be known by others if he was competing. 

In a July 2019 video he announced the 'bad news' that he would no longer 'be able to compete in the Olympics' after learning that wheelchair racing was worsening his existing back injury (above)

In a July 2019 video he announced the ‘bad news’ that he would no longer ‘be able to compete in the Olympics’ after learning that wheelchair racing was worsening his existing back injury (above)

In another post he also talks about the move to no longer take part. Cawthorn's name is not on the 2020 database of registered athletes that is publicly available online

In another post he also talks about the move to no longer take part. Cawthorn’s name is not on the 2020 database of registered athletes that is publicly available online

‘The community itself is small. There’s probably 50 [elite wheelchair racers] in the entire country, and we see each other four, five, six times a year, at least,’ he told The Nation. 

Cawthorn’s office did not immediately return’s request for comment. 

But a spokesperson for the lawmaker told the Washington Times he had trained for the 400 meters for the Tokyo Games but was forced to pull out due to a back injury.

‘Rep. Cawthorn trained for the 400 meters with the goal of competing in the Tokyo Olympics,’ said Micah Bock. 

‘Due to a back muscle injury, he was unable to continue pursuing that dream. 

‘Rep. Cawthorn’s journey from car crash to Congress was not an easy one, and his desire to compete in the Tokyo Olympics further underscores the passion Congressman Cawthorn has always possessed to represent his country.’  

Cawthorn has been accused of misleading Americans about his accomplishments in the past.   

On his campaign website, he says he was nominated to the US Naval Academy by Mark Meadows in 2014 but that his plans were derailed by the car crash. 



In a May 2019 post, Cawthorn used the hashtag ‘qualifiers’ but the two Paralympians McGrory (left) and Siemann (right) said there were no qualifying meets that year

But in a 2017 deposition, he admitted his application for the Naval Academy had been rejected before the crash. 

Cawthorn is also facing calls to resign following the insurrection on the US Capitol. 

The North Carolina lawmaker took to the stage of Trump’s rally on January 6 and pushed unfounded claims the election had been stolen from MAGA supporters. 

‘My friends, the Democrats with all the fraud that they have done in this election, the Republicans hiding and not fighting, they are trying to silence your voice,’ he said.

‘Make no mistake about it, they do not want you to be heard, but my friends when I look into this crowd I can confidently say this crowd has the voice of lions.’

This came one month after a speech in December where he encouraged Trump supporters to ‘lightly threaten’ members of Congress.

‘And feel free, you can lightly threaten them, and say, “You know what? If you don’t start supporting election integrity, I’m coming after you, Madison Cawthorn is coming after you. Everybody’s is coming after you,”‘ he said.  

Government watchdog group Campaign for Accountability filed a complaint this week asking the House Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate Cawthorn along with fellow Republican Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar and for them to be removed from their roles.

It accuses them of inciting the riot as part of ‘a seditious conspiracy to use force to prevent Congress from carrying out its constitutional and statutory duties to count the votes of the Electoral College.’

Cawthorn is also facing calls to resign following the insurrection on the US Capitol. The North Carolina lawmaker took to the stage of Trump's rally on January 6 and pushed unfounded claims the election had been stolen from MAGA supporters (above)

Cawthorn is also facing calls to resign following the insurrection on the US Capitol. The North Carolina lawmaker took to the stage of Trump’s rally on January 6 and pushed unfounded claims the election had been stolen from MAGA supporters (above)

Cawthorn was a vocal supporter of Trump’s unfounded claims of widespread election fraud – claims that were debunked in the courts and by Trump’s own administration.

When lawmakers returned to the Capitol after the riot to certify the election, Cawthorn voted to uphold objections to Arizona and Pennsylvania’s votes. 

Five people died in the storming of the Capitol including a Capitol cop who was struck over the head with a fire extinguisher by a rioter.  

Cawthorn, 25, became the youngest member of Congress in November after he defeated Democratic rival Moe Davis for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District seat. 

This came after his surprise win over Trump’s nominee Lynda Bennett in the primaries.

In his campaign he often spoke about overcoming personal challenges after being wheelchair-bound following the 2014 car crash that almost killed him. 

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Olympics: Japan to ban entry of foreign athletes during virus emergency

FILE PHOTO: Olympic rings, which were temporarily taken down in August for maintenance amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, are towed by a boat for reinstallation at the waterfront area at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo, Japan December 1, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

January 15, 2021

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan will temporarily suspend exemptions allowing foreign athletes to train in the country ahead of the Summer Olympics, Kyodo News reported, as it closes its borders to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases just six months before the Games.

The suspension will last until Feb. 7, the scheduled end of the coronavirus state of emergency in the capital, Tokyo, and other major cities, Kyodo said, citing an unidentified source with knowledge of the matter.

Japan is grappling with record surges in coronavirus infections, prompting the government to tighten border controls and expand its state of emergency to cover more than half of the country’s population.

The pause of athlete exemptions would follow the government’s suspension this week of exemptions for business travellers.

The temporary ban will include non-resident foreign athletes and coaches with Japanese sports leagues including J-League soccer, which begins its season next month, and Nippon Professional Baseball, which opens spring training Feb. 1, Kyodo said.

Japanese athletes will be allowed to re-enter the country but must self-quarantine for 14 days, during which they cannot practice or compete, the report said.

(Reporting by Chris Gallagher. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

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Registries Could Offer Insight Into COVID-19’s Impact on College Athletes’ Hearts

TUESDAY, Jan. 12, 2021 (American Heart Association News)

Researchers are soon expected to release initial findings from a national cardiac registry of NCAA athletes who have tested positive for COVID-19, giving hope to health care professionals trying to better understand the impact of the disease on the heart.

The data could help doctors diagnose and treat athletes recovering from COVID-19 who have developed myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart. While the number of such cases known publicly among athletes is low, the American College of Cardiology’s Sports and Exercise Cardiology Leadership Council has outlined recommendations for when athletes who have tested positive for the coronavirus can resume physical activity. Guidelines include cardiac testing for those who had COVID-19 symptoms.

Sports medicine and cardiology experts at Harvard University and the University of Washington formed the national registry in collaboration with the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association to track cases of COVID-19 and its heart-related aftermath in NCAA athletes. More than 60 schools are currently contributing to the registry.

Before COVID-19, myocarditis accounted for 7% to 20% of deaths attributed to sudden cardiac events in young athletes, according to a recent study in the journal JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging. But data on heart injury in athletes recovering from COVID-19 is limited.

“Registry data of cardiac testing and outcomes in athletes after COVID-19 are needed to guide future screening strategies,” the study authors said.

The research database, called Outcomes Registry for Cardiac Conditions in Athletes, or ORCCA, already has collected data from more than 3,000 athletes. It initially will focus on athletes who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to identify how the condition impacts the cardiovascular system and injures the heart muscle, the AMSSM statement said. The long-term objective is a registry for athletes diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, regardless of whether it was related to COVID-19.

“You wouldn’t want someone working out intensely in the middle of an inflammation of the heart because it could weaken the heart in the long term,” said Dr. Rachel Lampert, a cardiologist with Yale Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. She is on the steering committee for the registry. “That’s why the question is particularly relevant in athletes.”

According to a small study published in September in JAMA Cardiology, 4 out of 26 athletes (15%) from Ohio State University who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and underwent heart MRIs had results “suggestive of myocarditis.”

Ohio State, which lost to the University of Alabama in Monday’s college football championship, is among the 14 schools in the Big Ten Conference. The conference has its own cardiac registry and is contributing to ORCCA.

Dr. Eugene H. Chung is an electrophysiologist and sports cardiologist at Michigan Medicine and member of the Big Ten Cardiac Registry Steering Committee. “It would be very interesting to get a sense of how often we’re seeing myocarditis in student-athletes infected with COVID-19 – we don’t quite know that yet,” said Chung, who also is chair of ACC’s Sports and Exercise Cardiology Leadership Council.

The Big Ten plans to separately review its registry data and have specialists not involved in the initial data collection report independently on findings from cardiovascular evaluations. The Big Ten registry also will include control groups of athletes not affected by COVID-19 and those suffering from other illnesses such as the flu to compare cardiac risk among all three groups.

“With the cardiac registry, the Big Ten will take the lead to further our understanding of the athletic heart as well as the course of COVID-19 infection in the collegiate student-athlete population,” Chung and fellow conference registry steering committee members wrote in a recent article in the AHA journal Circulation.

“Our findings will be informative for broader public health policy as we fight coronavirus and all strive for safe return to play.”

American Heart Association News covers heart and brain health. Not all views expressed in this story reflect the official position of the American Heart Association. Copyright is owned or held by the American Heart Association, Inc., and all rights are reserved. If you have questions or comments about this story, please email [email protected]


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PNG athletes desperately want to be allowed into Australia to train for the Olympics after using makeshift facilities for months

Just months out from the Tokyo Games, Dika Toua is lifting weights in sweltering heat underneath her coach’s family’s house in Papua New Guinea.

She and fellow Olympic hopeful, Morea Baru, would normally be preparing at a specialist centre in New Caledonia with their Australian coach, but like most things this year, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted those plans.

“Because of the pandemic, we’ve all left our usual training regimes and we’ve come back home,” Toua explains.

The coronavirus has derailed Olympic preparations across the world, but it’s being especially hard felt in PNG.

Most of PNG’s athletes would normally be training overseas. But travel restrictions have forced many to stay at home without access to the basics they need to prepare.

With Port Moresby’s one facility for high-performance athletes turned into a coronavirus isolation centre and off limits, Toua and Baru were forced to use a makeshift shipping container to train in at first before their coach offered up a family member’s house.

Dika Toua and fellow Olympic hopeful, Morea Baru, would normally be in New Caledonia.(ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

Toua said they are incredibly grateful to his family for providing the site, because the converted shipping container doesn’t have a roof and Papua New Guinea is in its wet season, so when the sun isn’t shining, there’s regular heavy rain.

“The Olympics, it’s a major event and everybody prepares well to go and compete at that level,” said Toua, who will be the first female weightlifter in the world to compete at five Olympics if she qualifies for Tokyo.

“So crossing our fingers that we get back to normality soon.”

PNG asks Australia to allow athletes in to train

While Australia has been supporting the PNG team, providing $250,000 in funding to help athletes keep training, there are fears it won’t be enough to help all the athletes qualify.

Papua New Guinea’s Olympic Committee has now written to the Australian Government asking for its athletes to be allowed into the country to train for the six months before the Tokyo Games.

If they can’t get to Australia, it is feared some will miss out on competing against the world’s best.

“Of course, they’re not Australian citizens and we all understand the difficulties of Australians getting home themselves, so we understand it’s very difficult,” Chef de Mission Tamzin Wardley said.

“But unless we get to international competition, then the Tokyo dream is beginning to fade away.”

Toua said Australia had “helped us in so many ways” and Team PNG would “be honoured” to be allowed to train in the country.

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said “Australia is a natural sporting partner to Papua New Guinea” and in addition to its grant to PNG’s Olympic Committee, it is “exploring innovative, COVID-safe ways for PNG athletes to access Australian expertise as part of their preparations”.

Shooter Danny Wanma is also hoping to qualify for the Olympic Games.

A Black man wearing sunglasses and a black cap holds a gun pointed in the sky with trees in the background.
Danny Wanma is a pilot for Air Nuigini and used to train in Brisbane while on layover in Australia.(ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

He normally trains in Brisbane, but after being forced back home due to the pandemic, he hasn’t been able to get access to ammunition.

Instead, for almost a year he’s been “dry firing” — practising the motions without actually shooting.

“Given COVID-19, I just work on what I can control, there’s nothing I can do about it, just accept it,” he said.

Without being able to actually shoot, he has been focusing on mental preparation and fitness as well as playing tennis, to practise focusing on a moving object, so he’s ready for the lead-up events required to qualify.

But he is worried he won’t be able to shoot the score he needs to make it in if he doesn’t get some proper training in.

“… It’s extremely difficult. So that option to travel to Australia would be a godsend.”

A man with dark skin and wearing a red and yellow shirt smiles with a gun on his shoulder.
Wanma has been focusing on mental preparation and fitness as well as playing tennis.(ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

Village and family pressures on athletes

On top of lacking facilities, the athletes all face unique problems training back home.

Hanuabada, which sits on Port Moresby’s waterfront, is well known — not only for its distinctive stilt houses that perch over the ocean, but for the sporting prowess of many of its residents, including its weightlifters.

It’s sometimes referred to as Gold Village because of the number of champion athletes it has produced for Papua New Guinea.

But it’s not built to train top competitors preparing for the Olympic Games.

“Being in a village setting, we’ve got so many things that are happening around us,” Toua said.

“When there is a death, we have to stop training, when there is a bride price [ceremony] or family commitment [we have to stop].”

Toua said they “just have to focus and keep training”, while waiting to hear if they can go to Australia.

The financial strain on athletes and their families to train for an additional year has also been hard felt.

Some athletes have already dropped out, but PNG is still hoping between 10 and 20 people will still be able to qualify for the Games.

“It’s the fundamental basis of the Olympic Games, that all countries are there, and everyone gets a chance to compete,” Ms Wardley said.

“We really need to be down there [in Australia] first thing after the new year, to be serious about competing in the lead-up to the Olympics.”

Sailors put their life on hold for the Games

So far only two Papua New Guineans have qualified for Tokyo: Te’Ariki and Rose Numa.

A man smiles as he stands leaning against a sail as a woman sits on a boat smiling.
Sailors Te Ariki Numa and Rose Numa usually train in Australia, but are back in PNG launching their boat on beaches instead.(ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

The siblings, who will be competing individually, will be the first sailors to represent Papua New Guinea at the Olympics in almost 30 years. The last person was their dad.

“He’s pretty excited to have two kids qualify,” Rose says, before her brother chips in “two birds with one stone” and they both laugh.

After qualifying at the start of 2020, Te’Ariki quit his job and Rose postponed her final year of university so that they could focus on preparing for the Games.

They had only been training in Brisbane for a week when closing borders forced them back home.

“It was a really big setback for us, not being able to go down in the last 10 months and train and get that experience,” Te’Ariki said.

In Port Moresby they don’t have coaches or competitions so they drag their boats to a local beach to launch into the harbour.

A Black woman wearing a white cap and a black shirt smiles as she leans on her sail.
Rose Numa says “it’s really hard to get competitions going” being the only sailors in their village.(ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

Local children gather around to watch as they rig up and push out into the water.

“Basically no-one else sails, it’s just us,” Rose said.

“So, it’s really hard to get competitions going, to keep us in competition shape.”

She said being able to go to Australia would be “really, really helpful” for their training.

“Coming from an emerging country — emerging as in we’re still learning — getting to the Olympics has been quite an achievement for us, as a country.

“So, it’s quite a challenge, but we’re up for it.”

‘We’re all determined that we’re going to get there’

Ms Wardley says she’s in awe of the young sailors.

Two people on two boats sail on water with a clear sky above them.
The brother and sister sailors drag their boats to a local beach to launch into the harbour.(ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

“They’re out there egging each other on, but it’s nothing [compared] to being down at a proper race start and proper race event,” she said.

“I take my hat off to them that they’re out there and still going.

“They literally drag their lasers down from where they keep them under the house across a rocky beach to take them out sailing because they’re not even based at a proper yacht club with a ramp.”

Other athletes are facing similar problems of having no-one to train against. A boxing hopeful doesn’t have a quality partner to spar against. And there’s no-one in the league of the country’s premier tennis player, Abigail Tere-Apisah.

“That’s one of the hard things about being a champion in a South Pacific country, is that you do tend to be that level above everyone else, so it’s very hard finding training partners,” Ms Wardley said.

But while their preparations may not be ideal, the athletes who have committed to their Olympic dream are making up for any lack of facilities with pure grit.

“It’s been a big challenge, but we’re all determined that we’re going to get there,” Ms Wardley said.

“Everyone is committed to being there, everyone is committed to doing whatever they have to do to get there.

“Now we just need the chance to do so.”

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Tasmania’s young athletes back home to compete in the Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals

Tasmanian running sensation Stewart McSweyn says he still has “pinch-myself” moments when he is racing against the world’s best.

McSweyn, 25, grew up on windy King Island, off Tasmania’s north-west coast, and is one of only a handful of the state’s elite athletes preparing to jet off to the re-scheduled Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

Presently, he is back in his home state to catch up with family and compete in the Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals.

The carnivals have been part of Tasmania’s sporting culture for generations and are fiercely contested by some of the country’s best runners, cyclists and woodchoppers.

Speaking from the carnival’s athlete camp at Port Sorell, McSweyn said his career achievements still felt like a dream.

“When you’re a kid, you always dream of making an Australian team or whatever, and you kind of wonder how the top guys get to how good they are,” McSweyn said.

He credits his primary school physical education teacher for spotting his talent.

“He was kind of like, ‘you’re probably a little bit skinny to be playing footy, have you ever tried running? You look like you can run around the field alright’, and it kind of went from there.”

McSweyn is preparing to compete in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.(ABC News: Manika Champ)

McSweyn spent most of 2020 in Europe, enjoying a stellar period.

He broke the Australian records for the 1,500m and 3,000m at the Diamond League meet in Doha in September, before running the world’s fastest mile time for 2020 at Penguin, in north-west Tasmania, as part of the Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals.

Victorian runner Adam Spencer, 19, helped McSweyn achieve his three minute and 50.61 seconds win in the Penguin mile by running as his pacer for the 800m.

“I’m looking forward to trying to get better for next year; hopefully the Tokyo Olympics go ahead and I’ll be able to showcase the improvement I’ve made,” McSweyn said.

He has qualified for the 1,500m, 3,000m and 10,000m events at the Tokyo games.

“I’ve got to narrow it down to two [events], so it’s kind of up in the air which two I’ll choose. Hopefully the Olympics go ahead; probably a month or two out I’ll make a decision about what I’m going to compete in,” McSweyn said.

Tokyo delay bought time

Tasmania’s Tokyo-bound cyclist Georgia Baker is also home for the carnivals series.

“It’s been eight months since I’ve been back to Tassie, so it’s good to see all my family again and just relax and spend some time with people I’ve missed a lot,” Baker said.

“This year, given we haven’t had much racing, it’s really exciting to pin a number on again and race.”

It’s been two years since Baker competed at the carnivals and she is using it as a warm up for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Woman cyclist posing for a photo on a suburban footpath
Cyclist Georgia Baker is happy to be back in Tasmania.(ABC News: Manika Champ)

The 26-year-old is the only Tasmanian cyclist locked in to race at the Tokyo games in 2021.

She said she was “a little bit shocked” when the 2020 games were cancelled.

Fellow Tasmanian rider Amy Cure retired when the Olympics were postponed, but Baker wasn’t ready for that.

“I’ve love riding my bike and I wasn’t ready to stop cycling after the Olympics anyway,” Baker said.

“So for me, I was like, ‘oh well, it’s more time for us to get better and stronger’.”

She has been in Adelaide most of the year with the Australian Cycling Team preparing for the Olympics.

“We have a new coach, we’ve been trying a few different things that seem to be working really well, so for us it’s really promising.”

Even though the 2021 Olympics aren’t yet a sure thing, Baker wanted to remain optimistic.

“You’ve got to think positive; you can’t really afford to think that it’s not going to go ahead,” Baker said.

Pair prepare for Podium Potential Academy

Lauren Perry, 24, and Josh Duffy, 20, are two of Tasmania’s rising cycling stars taking on the carnival.

The pair have been selected into the Australia Cycling Team’s Podium Potential Academy for 2021.

Two cyclists smiling at the camera
Lauren Perry and Josh Duffy have both joined the Podium Potential Academy.(ABC News: Craig Heerey)

Duffy was also part of the academy in 2020, but Perry will join him in Adelaide in the New Year.

“It’s been something I’ve worked [at] for a very long time and had some set backs on the way, so for it to finally come to fruition is really good,” Perry said.

“Longer term, I’d really like to go to either the world championships or put my hand up for the Commonwealth Games. I don’t know if it’s a realistic goal but there’s no harm in working towards it.”

Duffy also has high hopes.

“It’s nice to be back in Tas racing with friends and [with] family watching, and it’s an opportunity to take all the pressure off and just enjoy racing,” he said.

The Launceston Carnival, an indoor event, was spectator-free this year. The Latrobe and Devonport Carnivals were cancelled, but the Burnie Carnival on New Year’s Eve has geared up to be one of the biggest.

McSweyn, Baker, Perry and Duffy will all compete at Burnie on Thursday afternoon and night. Fellow Tokyo-bound Tasmanian runner Jack Hale is also among the line-up.

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‘Athlete’s Heart’ Differs Between Men and Women

TUESDAY, Dec. 15, 2020 (American Heart Association News)

The hearts of female athletes adapt differently to the rigors of sports training compared to their male peers, according to a new study that could change the way doctors evaluate women’s heart health.

“Athlete’s heart” describes physical and electrical changes, or remodeling, to the heart as a result of intense training. While it’s not a medical condition that requires treatment, researchers are now studying how factors like sex, age and sport contribute to heart changes.

For the new study, researchers at the University of Siena and the Institute of Sports Medicine and Science in Italy compared the hearts of 360 female and 360 male Olympic athletes. They were divided into four groups according to their sport type: skill, such as golf and table tennis; power, including weightlifting and snowboarding; mixed disciplines like soccer and tennis; and endurance, including rowing, swimming and long-distance running.

Each athlete had a clinical exam, an electrocardiogram (ECG) to test the heart’s electrical activity, and an echocardiogram to measure the heart’s size and shape. The results, published Tuesday in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging, showed women had different electrical and structural changes compared to their male counterparts.

The findings show that “a sex-based approach for interpreting the complex features of ‘athlete’s heart’ in women is needed,” said lead author Dr. Flavio D’Ascenzi, an assistant professor of sports cardiology at the University of Siena.

The ECGs in women more often showed T-wave inversion, which can signify an underlying heart muscle disease that affects the lower right chamber and carries a risk of sudden death, particularly during exercise. But that finding may not be cause for alarm in female athletes in the absence of symptoms, D’Ascenzi said.

“Accurate knowledge” about how the right side of the heart has been remodeled is essential to differentiate between athlete’s heart and serious heart conditions, he said.

Compared to male athletes, women also had proportionately larger right and left ventricles, the heart’s two lower pumping chambers. Women engaged in endurance sports had the biggest increase in the size of the right ventricle and right atrium (the upper chamber), followed by those in mixed disciplines and power sports. Skill sports had the smallest effect on remodeling the right side of the heart. The same held true for the left ventricle and left atrium.

The dynamics of cardiac remodeling in Olympians doesn’t easily translate to the general population, D’Ascenzi said. However, because the researchers analyzed the effects of different sports, he said the data could potentially apply to non-Olympic athletes who play the same sports and train with a similar intensity as those in the study.

In addition, female athletes’ physicians can use the findings to further individualize how test results are interpreted, said Dr. Elizabeth Dineen, an assistant professor of cardiology at the University of California Irvine.

“Yet they must use caution, as this study shows there are gender differences, but we don’t have concrete (normal) values,” said Dineen, who was not involved in the study.

The next step, D’Ascenzi said, is to obtain evidence of training-induced heart changes with advanced imaging methods, such as cardiac MRI, and to do similar studies in non-professional female athletes.

Looking at more diverse groups would also be useful, Dineen said. Studying athletes versus sedentary controls, comparing groups of different races or ages, and following study participants over time could elicit more data about the exact mechanisms behind cardiac remodeling in athletes.

“We see the changes,” Dineen said, “but I don’t think the medical community fully understands what is causing these changes.”

American Heart Association News covers heart and brain health. Not all views expressed in this story reflect the official position of the American Heart Association. Copyright is owned or held by the American Heart Association, Inc., and all rights are reserved. If you have questions or comments about this story, please email [email protected]

By Kat Long

American Heart Association News

Copyright © 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.


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How three athletes dealt with the Olympics that wasn’t

McCulloch won a bronze medal in the team sprint in London but missed the 2016 Games in Rio after being selected as a reserve. She had contemplated retirement even before that, so the news Tokyo 2020 was being shifted back a year would be seismic.

It has been a tumultuous year on many fronts for McCulloch, who battled a crippling back injury then found out her sprint partner Stephanie Morton had elected to retire. The pair have been world champions and would have been among the gold medal favourites at the Velodrome in Japan.

Kaarle McCulloch with Steph Morton after winning team sprint silver at the world titles in February.Credit:Getty

“It’s been extra hard for me because I’ve had quite a hard injury, I’m in week 20 of rehab at the moment,” McCulloch said. “There was a good few months there where I couldn’t even get out of bed without having pain, so it felt like everything was imploding on me, with the Olympics being postponed, my teammate retiring. It’s been crazy.

“I had a crash on the track in 2018 where I hurt my neck quite badly and I landed quite heavily on my left hip. That just got progressively worse over time and it resulted in my back saying ‘nope’. I’ve had to fix the back, fix the hip, fix the neck and I’m finally on my way back now.”

There were times where McCulloch could see the silver lining. Along with Morton, she took silver at the World Championships in February but as her back deteriorated, she realised she would have been struggling to be at her peak should Tokyo have taken place.

“To be honest, because I suffered this injury in November last year, I rode the World Championships in February at half capacity. We won silver, I was pretty hopeful that if I could control the injury that the gold might go to us in Tokyo.

“But I realised as time went on, my back really wasn’t coping and if I had to have gone to the Olympics this year, it wouldn’t have been gold that we were taking home. I feel like it’s been a bit of a blessing but for me, the process has been very tedious.”

McCulloch and Morton already had a slot booked for Tokyo and McCulloch is unsure what that event now holds. But she understands why Morton, who retired just weeks ago aged 29, could not commit to the gruelling training load for another year.

“That only happened three weeks ago now. Steph was looking to retire after Tokyo so when it was postponed, she was really struggling with the concept of going on for another 16 months. It was a little bit more black and white for me… I just told myself to suck it up and do it.

“I was hopeful she may have wanted to race on but her heart and her mind weren’t in the same place as me. I feel now I can give all that energy to myself and give myself the best chance in the individual events.

“[The delay] is harder for the older athletes, especially. This will be my 16th year at the top level and it does take a toll at some point. For the younger guys in the team, it’s nothing to them, they just have to wait an extra year.

“It is an all-in thing… you can’t just turn up at the Olympics and see what happens. It’s a complete investment.”

Stewart McSweyn, 25, record-breaking distance runner

Having grown up on a property on King Island, in the middle of Bass Strait, Stewart McSweyn says he’s used to things going wrong. That’s just life on the farm, he reckons, so that’s how he approached the news the Games weren’t going to take place in 2020.

“You get used to adapting to life a bit better when you live out in the country,” McSweyn said. “At the start of the year, you thought there no chance the Olympics wouldn’t go ahead. But then we all got this huge curveball.

“When you play any sport, you get pretty good at adapting, so pushing a year back for me wasn’t especially a bad thing. Most athletes will probably think they can get a little bit better.”

Stewart McSweyn wins the 1500m in the Diamond League meeting at Doha in September.

Stewart McSweyn wins the 1500m in the Diamond League meeting at Doha in September.Credit:AP

In a lost year for so many athletes, McSweyn found a great deal. In Doha in September, he claimed the 1500m national record, adding it to the 3000m and 10,000m marks he already owns.

Key to it all was the decision to head to Europe in the midst of the pandemic to attend some of the Diamond League meetings. It was a calculated gamble given the health risks but McSweyn would not only emerge unscathed but a different athlete, one with newfound confidence in his ability to race and command a contest.

“It was all mental this year. I felt like I had the ability to really run the races on my terms and not worry about what other people were doing. That’s the thing I’ll take forward into next year, just focus on delivering what I can, not what everyone else is doing,” McSweyn said.


“You get to a point where you look around and see the guys you idolise, the ones that are going to be right up there for a medal next year. You’re thinking you can do what they can do and you realise there’s no reason why you can’t.

“The big thing I’ve been focusing on is to really race, get in there to compete, not just hang on for a good time. Race mentality, I’ve improved so much. I think that will serve me well at the Olympics.”

McSweyn’s growth as an athlete has seen him shift his goals for the Games of 2021. A medal is no longer a dream and he believes if he can peak at the right moment, as he did in what would be a successful dry run this year, he can return home with some silverware.

“The goal now is to win a medal. Based on what I was able to do this year, I’ll be throwing everything at it. Hopefully I can execute a good race on the day. I needed to improve if I was going to be top five in the world. I’ve ended up taking a lot from this COVID year.”

Ariarne Titmus, 20, world champion swimmer

Titmus could well have been a household name in Australia should the Games have gone ahead as scheduled. A freakishly talented distance freestyler with a work ethic that knows no bounds, she was a live gold medal chance in the 200m and the 400m, along with the 4 x 200m relay.

The Brisbane-based swimmer had already stunned the world when she defeated American star Katie Ledecky in the 400m at last year’s FINA World Championships in South Korea. It was a powerhouse win that set up what may well have been the best race of the Olympic meeting in Tokyo.

Ariarne Titmus with coach Dean Boxall during a Dolphins team training camp in Cairns last year.

Ariarne Titmus with coach Dean Boxall during a Dolphins team training camp in Cairns last year.Credit:AAP

Titmus was shattered when the Games were postponed… initially, at least. But her outlook for such a young athlete has always been one of focus, sacrifice and maturity, so it didn’t take long for her to reset and refocus.

“The way I felt a the start, I thought it would take a lot longer than what it did. But to be honest, once I got back into my routine, even though I couldn’t train, I came to terms with it pretty quickly. I knew people would do everything they could to have the Olympics next year,” Titmus said.


“I tried to have as much hope as I could and that put me in the right headspace to get on with things. Since I’ve been back in training, we have been back since about June, I’ve been in a really good headspace. It didn’t get me down much once the dust settled. I saw it as a positive knowing I have more time to get ready.

“I came to terms with it quite quickly compared to how I felt when I first found out. I was pretty upset at the time. If anything it means a three-year gap between Olympics rather than four, which I don’t mind at all.”

Titmus trains at the famed St Peters Western Club in Brisbane under coach Dean Boxall, who pushes her to the limits and then some. Yet Titmus is cut from a different cloth; she thrives under the kind of training other swimmers find abrasive and monotonous.

When the pools re-opened for the elite swimmers in the winter, Titmus returned with vengeance as she carved out the laps, knowing her international rivals would soon be doing the same.

“I think, especially not being able to race and having to go back into tough training blocks, that might have broken a few athletes that do their sport for the love of racing and competing. But I love training, so that made me realise how much I love the sport.

“I think the biggest thing was being so close to it, then having it taken away. That realisation I still haven’t been to an Olympics makes me realise how much it means. That’s just made me even more driven to get there.” By now, I should have been an Olympian and maybe done something great.

“I was fine just keeping on training. So I think I learned that I don’t mind the continual grind.”

Titmus finally returned to the pool in a virtual national short course meet at the end of November, where she rattled off the sixth-fastest 400m in history. She already owns the short course record in the event but she was far less concerned about times and more worried about remembering how to race.

“After having the year out of competition, it was really hard to get my groove back. I was really worried I’d dive in and forget what to do and subconsciously, I think that happened a bit. I didn’t go out as hard as I usually would and I think I was a little bit scared.

“It’s just learning to race again… I was excited and that sets me up pretty well for the new year.”

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Five Little A athletes do themselves proud at NSW All Schools Athletics Carnival | Goulburn Post

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There was plenty of success for five Goulburn Mulwaree Little Athletics Club athletes earlier this month at the NSW All Schools Athletics Carnival. Alyssa Murphy, Jess Hassan and Josh Kalozi from Mulwaree High, Jaidah Jarvis from Goulburn High and Matthew Arregui from Moss Vale all competed at Sydney Olympic Park. Matthew in his first All Schools competed in the 12 years boys 100m, qualifying for the finals and finishing 10th overall. Alyssa also competing at her first All Schools, competed in the 14 years girls 3000m and was also running up an age group. READ ALSO: First time ever: females race with males at Pheasant Wood Goulburn Mulwaree Little Athletics Club president Kerrie Laurie said this was her first hit out at this distance on the track and she put in a great run. Jess competed in the 14 years girls 800m, finishing third in her heat and only just missing out on the finals. Laurie said this was her personal best in this race. “Three weeks ago, she also ran a personal best to break the club’s 800m record which had stood for 10 years.” READ ALSO: Toparis comes home to defend ASBK title at Wakefield Park Jaidah competed in the 16 girls discus and shot and finished fourth in both events. “Jaidah is learning with every competition and has really only been throwing for just over two years,” Laurie said. “She has been consistently breaking her age group’s discus and shot records as she goes through, usually two or three times a season.” Josh competed in four events coming away with four medals. He won the 200m hurdles in a personal best time, won the triple jump, came third in the long jump and finished second in the 100m hurdles while pushing the winner to a new record. READ ALSO: Goulburn Table Tennis wraps up 2020 with presentation evening As a result, Laurie said Josh made the NSW Athletics honour team. “As the Australian All Schools Championships was cancelled along with all other Australian Athletics Championships due to COVID, NSW Athletics chose an honour team which would have been the team to participate if the Australian Championships were being contested,” she said. “Josh was selected in that team for three events, the 100m and 200m hurdles and the triple jump.” Laurie congratulated all of the athletes who participated and hoped it would spur them on to bigger and better things as the year progresses. Did you know the Goulburn Post is now offering breaking news alerts and a weekly email newsletter? Keep up-to-date with all the local news: sign up below.



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Athletes must take their place in the vaccine queue, says Coe

FILE PHOTO: World Athletics President Sebastian Coe wearing a protective face mask speaks to media as he inspects the National Stadium, the main stadium of Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Tokyo, Japan October 8, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato/Pool

December 11, 2020

By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters) – Healthy Athletes should take their place in the COVID-19 vaccine queue behind people with more pressing needs despite events such as next year’s Olympics looking set to be highly dependent on competitors arriving free from the virus, the head of world athletics Seb Coe said on Friday.

Most athletes in their 20s and 30s, across all sports, would be just about last in line in most countries when it comes to handing out the vaccine but the pressure to create a COVID-safe environment at sporting events has raised the question of whether they should be treated as a special case.

Coe trod a careful line when asked about the issue at a media conference on Friday. “We have to be sensitive here – there are many claims on that priority,” he said.

“Most of us are dependent on our frontline workers and our emergency services and we also recognise that there are vulnerable people in the community and we want to make sure that we look after them as much as possible.

“I’m not sure that it is for sport to be pressing the case for fit young people. I would like, on the other hand, that when the vaccine does become available and that the athletes have the opportunity to make use of it that they do.

“I’m not mandating it and I don’t think it’s my job to tell people what they should or shouldn’t do in that area – I think that has to be a very personal and individualistic view.

“I hope they do avail themselves of it, I certainly would if I had the opportunity in the lead up to a Games like that, but it’s very much a personal decision.”

Coe, who won double Olympic gold over 1,500 metres and was the driving force behind Britain’s hosting of the 2012 Games, was confident next year’s Tokyo event, postponed from 2020, would go ahead, and said that if any country could respond to the challenge of a re-arranged Olympics it was Japan.

“I think the Games will go ahead. I was in Tokyo a week ago and spent 48 very intensive hours talking to the organising committee and the government,” he said.

“There is a cast-iron determination to stage the Games, though there is a recognition that we are still in uncertain territory. Yes, the vaccine will help, but I guess for athletes in the village and warm up track etc, there are going to be some adaptations.

“What nobody is across at the moment – and I certainly hope it happens – is whether we are going to have a stadium populated by good, passionate fans. Those are some of the things that are up in the air, along with athlete management in the village

“We are all pretty resolute about those changes. I can’t imagine what I would have been saying if someone had knocked on my door in March 2012 and said ‘We’re not going until 2013’ – it’s an enormous challenge.

“I think we should be very grateful, and I wake up grateful most days, that it’s the Japanese who are dealing with this because this is a first class organising committee.

“They have the intellectual ability and certainly the resilience to see their way through this coming six months to deliver what I think will be a fantastic Games.”

(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ken Ferris)

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